Face of Defense: Couple Deploys, Re-enlists Together

BAGHDAD — “Go big or go home” is what Army Sgt. Ash­leigh Berg told her hus­band, Army Sgt. Matthew Berg, when they decid­ed to re-enlist here for four more years Oct. 21.

Army Sgt. Matthew Berg and his wife, Army Sgt. Ash­leigh Berg, re-enlist Oct. 21, 2010, in Bagh­dad.
U.S. Army pho­to by Staff Sgt. Bran­don Moreno
Click to enlarge

Ash­leigh, non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer in charge of the sec­re­tary of gen­er­al staff for 1st Armored Divi­sion, U.S. Divi­sion Cen­ter, and a Mal­ibu, Calif., native, and Matthew, a vehi­cle main­te­nance non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer with the head­quar­ters motor pool with 1st Armored Divi­sion, and a Mobile, Ala., native, have been mar­ried for more than five years and have many expe­ri­ences most civil­ian cou­ples do not share.

“We met at Camp Red Cloud [in South Korea] while doing gate guard duty,” Matthew said. “Dur­ing our duty, we had a good chat, and after that I start­ed show­ing her around Korea.”

“In a way, he almost became my spon­sor, as he showed me around the dif­fer­ent parts of Seoul,” Ash­leigh said while look­ing over at her hus­band with a smile.

After spend­ing time with each oth­er and trav­el­ing togeth­er, the Bergs’ rela­tion­ship devel­oped and they even­tu­al­ly became engaged to be mar­ried. The cou­ple took advan­tage of the unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to get mar­ried in the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul.

“I think it’s pret­ty cool,” Ash­leigh said. “I mean, there are not many peo­ple I know who have a wed­ding cer­tifi­cate in Hangul,” the alpha­bet of the Kore­an lan­guage.

As both sol­diers neared the ends of their terms of ser­vice, they decid­ed to re-enlist for the first time, and were sta­tioned in Ger­many.

“Ger­many was great,” Matthew said. “We kept trav­el­ing and got to see most of the coun­try, and even some oth­er coun­tries like Aus­tria. We even took advan­tage of the [Edel­weiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Ger­many], which was a lot of fun.”

In their third year of mar­riage, Ash­leigh found her­self pack­ing her bags and kiss­ing her hus­band good­bye for a deploy­ment to Iraq, but the two set up solu­tions to keep com­mu­ni­ca­tion flow­ing while she was away.

“Before I left Iraq, we made sure we had both pur­chased web­cams and had Skype down­loaded onto our com­put­ers,” Ash­leigh said. “We also kept open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between each oth­er lead­ing up to the deploy­ment so, in a way, we had both men­tal­ly pre­pared our­selves for this.”

How­ev­er, the cou­ple was apart for only months before Matthew was informed he would be join­ing his wife in Iraq with 1st Armored Divi­sion.

“The tran­si­tion of hav­ing him come in was actu­al­ly an easy one,” Ash­leigh said with a small laugh. “About two days before he came to join me, my room­mate at the time had moved out, so he was able to lit­er­al­ly just move right in.”

Ash­leigh and Matthew said not much has changed between their first deploy­ment to Iraq togeth­er and their cur­rent one, but it is not always easy — and at the end of the day, it’s the lit­tle things that count.

“From the last deploy­ment to this one, we nev­er real­ly worked too far from each oth­er,” Ash­leigh said.

Matthew said Ash­leigh can some­times work very late, and while she is near­by, he may go the whole day with­out see­ing her. How­ev­er, he is glad to see her at the end of the day, as opposed to being sep­a­rat­ed by thou­sands of miles.

“Com­ing out here today was awe­some,” Ash­leigh said about the oppor­tu­ni­ty to re-enlist in front of the crossed sabers that mark the ends of what used to be Sad­dam Hussein’s mil­i­tary parade grounds. “I had the chance today to get out and see a real part of Iraq.”

Matthew said the day was excit­ing — his sec­ond time in a heli­copter — and that he felt for­tu­nate see a lit­tle bit of what Bagh­dad actu­al­ly looks like, while some peo­ple go a whole deploy­ment see­ing noth­ing but dirt and con­crete blast walls.

Deploy­ments are not easy, and the added stres­sors of a rela­tion­ship can be an extra chal­lenge to man­age, but Ash­leigh and Matthew agree that whether pulling guard duty, trav­el­ing or re-enlist­ing, they are tru­ly in step with each oth­er. And on a deploy­ment, they said, that can make all the dif­fer­ence in the world.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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